Woman Dies, Husband Fighting for Life in ICU after Unknowingly Eating Deadly Puffer Fish for Lunch in Malaysia

The Food and Drug Administration states that puffer fish may contain tetrodotoxin and saxitoxin, which are fatal poisons that cannot be eliminated by boiling or freezing.

An elderly Malaysian woman died and her husband is fighting in hospital for his life after the couple ate the deadly puffer fish last week, according to reports. The 83-year-old woman's 84-year-old husband purchased the puffer fish from a local fish shop, bought it home, and cooked and ate it, the couple's daughter said.

The couple's daughter said that they didn't know that eating puffer fish could prove to be fatal for them. Pufferfish is a delicacy known to contain extremely potent poisons and consuming it could prove deadly. The tragic incident happened in Malaysia's Kampung Chamek, Johor state's Kluang district last month.

Food of Death

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Puffer fish (representational purpose only) Twitter

The couple's daughter Ng Ai Lee, 51, said that her 84-year-old father unknowingly purchased the fish from a fishmonger last Saturday because there weren't many options available. Her father went on to get pufferfish, or "drumstick fish," as it is known in Chinese, from the fishmonger who makes a weekly van visit to their village in Kampung Chamek, Johor state.

"My parents have been buying fish from the same fishmonger for many years, so my father did not think twice about it," Lee told the Star.

"He would not have knowingly bought something so deadly to eat and put their lives in danger."

Her mother, Lim Siew Guan, fried the fish for lunch on the same day and started having breathing problems and shivers and her father began showing similar symptoms approximately an hour after her mother.

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Puffer fish Twitter

Ling Tian Soon, the chairman of the health and unity committee for Johor, in southern Malaysia also later confirmed that Lim Siew Guan started to shiver and have respiratory problems shortly after the couple cleaned and fried the fish for lunch.

"Her husband also began displaying similar symptoms about an hour later," Soon told the Star.

They were transported to the hospital, according to Ng, by her older brother who lives in a separate home in the same community.

Unfortunate Death

However, the woman died after a few hours. "My other brother and I are staying in Kuala Lumpur. After finding out about the incident from our family chat group, we decided to rush back to Kluang to see our parents.

"Unfortunately, we were not even halfway into our journey when my elder brother informed us that our mother had passed away that evening.

"I was devastated. The pain and emotions that I felt at the time were indescribable because it was just too unexpected.

"The last time I saw my mother was when they came to Kuala Lumpur and stayed with me for a week after the Lunar New Year celebrations.

"I was planning to return to our village to see them next month during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays," said Ng, who is the chief finance officer of a private company in the capital.

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Puffer fish is a delicacy in Japan Twitter

Her mother's death was determined to be caused by food poisoning with neurological manifestations, resulting in an irregular heartbeat and respiratory failure, presumably as a result of swallowing the fish.

On Wednesday, she was buried in the Chinese cemetery in Chamek.

According to Ng, her father is still in an intensive care unit coma while being treated for internal infections.

"I am prepared for the worst because the doctor told us that even if he is able to pull through the ordeal, he might not be the same any more, due to his old age," she said.

The Food and Drug Administration states that puffer fish may contain tetrodotoxin and saxitoxin, which are fatal poisons that cannot be eliminated by boiling or freezing.

The FDA claims that the fish's central nervous system toxins are more lethal than cyanide, with symptoms including tingling and lightheadedness often appearing 20 minutes to two hours after consumption.

Puffer fish, a delicacy in Japan, must be carefully cleaned and cooked in order to remove the organs that carry toxins and prevent contamination of the fish's flesh.

The commercial importation of puffer fish into the United States is severely constrained due to this convoluted process.